Saturday, July 25, marks one year of smooth, air-conditioned transportation for the Sun Link Tucson Modern Streetcar. To celebrate the first anniversary, Sun Link will offer free rides to all passengers.
Kandi Young, the director of marketing and communications for Sun Tran, noted that the event will serve both to thank the community and encourage more people to try out the streetcar.
Along with free rides, the celebratory event will also include a live vocalist performance by Crystal Stark onboard one of the streetcars.
The streetcar has become a popular mode of transportation for the Tucson community, having reached its millionth-rider milestone on May 21.
“We’re pleased that ridership has exceeded what we expected it to be and that the community seems to be really utilizing the service that launched last year,” Young said. “I think it’s been a good first year and we look forward to what ridership is to come in the future.”
Public concerns were raised about potential safety hazards as well as the practical usefulness of the streetcar when construction of the railway began in the summer of 2012. Yet, three years later, with the streetcar fully functioning, Sun Link officials report that such anxieties have decreased.
“We’re very committed to putting together different educational programs, talking about safety and how to walk, bicycle and drive along [the] streetcar line,” said Shellie Ginn, the streetcar’s project manager.
The educational program Ginn cites can be found on Sun Link’s website, under the tab “Street Smart Tips,” which provides instructional videos for how cyclists, motorists and even pedestrians can safely maneuver around the streetcar.
Among Tucsonans the streetcar is also becoming well-known for helping revive the downtown area.
“Since the streetcar has been in service we have a much different downtown, a more vibrant downtown,” said Michael Graham, public information officer for the city of Tucson’s Department of Transportation. “With the streetcar and student housing downtown, many new businesses have opened up, and it’s been an economic boom.”
Sun Link estimates that the streetcar has helped to create 1,500 long-term jobs in the area.
The Sun Link route, which runs every ten minutes between the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, passes through five districts, including the Mercado district, the Fourth Avenue business district and Main Gate Square.
“It’s another mode [of] transportation,” Ginn said. “It helps brings cars off the road and passengers onto a vehicle that uses clean energy.”
UA’s Parking and Transportation Services also works to make the streetcar more accessible to students and faculty.
“By our department subsidizing transit passes we encourage the community to try any sort of alternate transportation, including trying the modern streetcar,” said Florence Dei Ochoa, the marketing and public information manager for PTS.
According to the PTS website, an annual pass that normally would be purchased at $413 is available to students at half the cost.
For full-time UA students and staff, a free 14-day pass will also be available to those who sign up for the GO Tucson Mobile Ticketing app, Dei Ochoa noted.
“[The streetcar] is now part of the tapestry of our downtown and how we think about Tucson,” Ginn said, “and that’s just a wonderful thing.”